YOU NEED ‘CRACK & SHINE INTERNATIONAL’

“It’s a graffiti book presented like a Louis Vuitton catalogue.” That’s a 10-word pitch that had my attention from the early stages.

Normally Sunday is a day for easily distracted blogging, with multiple topics in a single post, but today the subject is singular because ‘Crack & Shine’ went in with such gusto and have created something that justifies a certain level of babble

I always feel like a charlatan when it comes to writing about graffiti-related matters. At least I recognize my toy status — plenty of blogs take a tumble when the paint and markers come out, falling over themselves in a mass of hapless outsider analysis that rings false. I just enjoy looking at destruction and find it insane that anyone would risk their wellbeing to get their name on a wall, overpass or train. Glorious acts of ignorance are the best gestures. Sometimes hearing the writers talking about their motivation is the only way to go, and ‘Crack & Shine’s debut in 2009 gave some London legends an aesthetically beautiful but defiantly uncensored voice.

The BOZO DDS recollections in the first volume were phenomenal and Will Robson-Scott’s photography was stunning. If you have even the faintest interest in any “street” related matters and didn’t pick up that hardback volume, you made a grievous error. We’ve all amassed the core texts — the ‘Mascots & Mugs,’ ‘The Art of Getting Over’ (a huge influence on ‘Crack & Shine’), Nov York’s streams-of-consciousness and ‘Also Known As Vol. 1’s elegant presentation of total damage, but too often, the image-heavy train-centric European tomes that are (quite rightly) for bombers by bombers go over my toy-head.

I rely on word-of-mouth for the real book recommendations. On the Run’s output is extremely consistent, but the second ‘Crack & Shine’ with an international theme has been something I’ve been waiting on for a while now. If you don’t pick up ‘Crack & Shine International’ (named after the publisher’s preferred mode of no-frills, British approach to getting up) when it drops, then you’re making a grievous error. This is more hardback, high-end presentation of the hardcore, this time with a tasteful fashion magazine style art direction that makes it an even more compelling artifact.

The task of getting writers to submit their inner-thoughts for a deadline isn’t something I envy, but after several years of work the team have come through. As a sub-culture that’s prone to moans and online debates, talk of notable omissions is inevitable, but for Fred and the team to come through with the book they’ve been promising since part one was released in a world that’s a conversational elephant’s graveyard of product, writings and brands that never materialize is immensely heartening.

Themed on the wanderlust of artists with a hunger to paint, connect and develop a greater understanding pre-internet, there’s a focus on folklore and deeper meanings that’s not silly and romanticized, nor offering any sugar-coating or flawed sociology on why the scene’s kings do what they do.

The likes of ESPO, NOXER, TOMEK, SEL ONE, ROID, KATSU and NASTY are strong subjects as the book shifts from NYC to Amsterdam via Paris, before Berlin, London and Los Angeles. The squint-worthy lists of every street in each spotlighted city hint at a masochistic production process. Mr. Powers’s “If you can’t describe what you do in 10 words or less, then hit the reset button” quote is something to live by, ROID is a dusted genius and NASTY submits one of the highlights as he explains that he might have developed a “Spider Sense” against being apprehended and bookends that thought with plenty of common sense. Every piece of submitted writing is strong, with the obsessive-compulsive nature of writers ensuring that their message is lucid, with anecdotes to top the original.

But this is all giving too much away. 288 pages of premium content makes this one of the best books on the subject matter to date, and it drops in a few weeks. Expect plenty more promo around the time it arrives, but shouts to Freddie and company at Topsafe for creating something that tops a standard that they went and set.

By all accounts, the ‘Crack & Shine’ project ends with this one, but in an era of 140 characters and homogenized blog content, a project like this is even more essential than ever. Each image is gallery standard (the amount of photos that never made the final edit is staggering) and getting Stephen K. Schuster involved is a wise move too. Buy local and support ‘Crack & Shine.’ Did the paragraphs above read like an advertorial? Pick up the book and I triple dare you to tell me that my enthusiasm is unjustified in any shape or (letter)form.

There’s too much bullshit out there — I hope this body of work influences people to cut the crap across-the-board. Keep an eye out for the imminent launch of www.crackandshine.com for further information. There’s big things planned.

6 thoughts on “YOU NEED ‘CRACK & SHINE INTERNATIONAL’

  1. Crack & Shine 2, more like Overground 4 LOL… shout out to the Dokument/UP guys, why do the real influences never get a mention… personally I’m sick of graffiti books/zines that look like “Louis Vuitton catalogues”, it’s been done to death now, I mean look at that portrait of Espo – how played out is that style of photography?!

    Yeah I know I’m not allowed to criticise because that makes me a ‘hater’, nothing is to be criticised in the 21st century, or ever again…

  2. I’m definitely still feeling the high gloss/hardcore content presentation approach in a major way, but you’re right about Dokument as a fantastic publisher (I like how they manage to put together books on every related subject – the b-boy posing one is classic too).

    Yep, I think criticism was outlawed about 5 years ago in favour of relentless “co-signs.”

  3. played out fashion photography with a bunch of bloggers-favourites writers who’ve been over-documented already. i bet it costs like £40 or something. if you cant shoplift it, dont bother.

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